My plan going into the Giants’ second preseason game last night was to cut some fresh Eli Manning tape and plow into the second half of a larger-sized piece. Well, Manning didn’t play at all, and the initial kickoff caught my eye, as I noticed Kerry Wynn, Lorenzo Carter, Ray-Ray Armstrong, and Michael Thomas all in on the opening kickoff.
Special teams units in the preseason are often the incubating areas for guys trying to get noticed by their coaches, and I assumed Wynn naturally was trying to make that case. What was unknown to me was that Wynn had a very good special teams reputation for the Giants, as any search for his tackles on NFL Game Pass will easily show. So when he flashed on the below two kickoffs, I didn’t realize that this was business as usual for a defensive lineman weighing in at 264 lbs. With downhill momentum, he can make some things happen on the field and plays like this fire a team up when they watch the film together. See below:
Wynn displays great athleticism in space and a knack for finding the ball carrier and finishing. Many Giants fans will remember him for his motor in the limited action he has seen since he was signed as an undrafted free agent in 2014. Such is the case for defensive ends playing behind the likes of Jason Paul Pierre and Olivier Vernon. The below report will give some insight as to the player’s evolution over a few seasons and project where he fits in a defense at this level.
Kerry Wynn started playing football as a junior in high school in Virginia (he also played basketball and ran track). The rather late start resulted in a college career at the University of Richmond (yes, another Spider on the roster), where he was named a captain and was a dynamic player in the front seven. His measurables are mixed, and for may “tweeners” it depends where you think he should play. He is 6’5″ and 264 lbs, undersized for a 4-3 defensive end, especially with the below average arm length of 31 and 3/4 inches. He strained his hamstring running the 40 at the Combine and clocked in at 4.98s. He managed 31 reps on the bench press. Many find it difficult to project players like this and, as always, the tape is a better resource.
With the Giants for four seasons, he has played defensive end behind the dynamic duo of Vernon and Pierre-Paul, and, to be honest, even fought for snaps against teammates like Avery Moss. Many fans will remember that then-defensive coordinator Spagnuolo, especially last year, rarely substituted his starting pair at DE. Overall, he is a player who is stout against the run and is evolving in his pass rushing traits. He can see real success when given a good amount of space to leverage his good hand use and speed.
What Wynn Can Do
In James Bettcher’s defense, Wynn can fit in a wide range of spots across a versatile defensive line. With the first team so far this preseason, Wynn has rotated in as part of their 3rd-down substitution package in the 3-tech DT position (in between the guard and tackle). In pass rush, he uses his speed against guards who are typically blocking 300 lb+ tackles, as well as his violent hands, his motor, nose for the football, and evolving pass rush moves. His familiarity with defending the run in a 4-3 from the 5-tech position relieves coordinators from the worry of having him play farther inside. Against divisional rivals like the Eagles this will be key, as they showed a propensity to run it on 3rd-and-medium to set up 4th-and-short in the event they did not convert. He also shows good mental processing and play speed to react to various looks from the offense. My colleague and I on the Big Blue Banter Podcast, Dan Schneier, were very high on NYG draft pick Rocky McIntosh as a pass rusher from the 3-technique position, but with flexibility. Wynn shows somewhat similar traits, but the experience in the league and the repetitions that have come with it make him the more attractive piece, at least in regards to the upcoming season.
Getting to the tape, Wynn’s sack on Friday night came on 3rd-and-8 rushing against the right guard, where he showed a speed-to-bull rush with good arm extension playing long, where despite his marginal get off, was able to gain penetration. See the below video:
Wynn displays good use of hands attacking the breast plate and shoulders of the blocker, gains leverage, and then shows good balance through contact as the center comes over to aid the guard. He finishes well with pretty good body control into the tackle.
Later in the second quarter, Wynn again made a good play from the 3-tech DT position that shows our point above: he is not just a one down specialist. Detroit comes out in 12 personnel with twins to the left and two tight ends to the right, near Wynn (who from the broadcast angle could even be aligned in 4i on the inside shoulder of the tackle). The scheme calls for the tackle to block down on Wynn with the runner coming their way. See below:
Wynn gains good ground against the larger sized tackle and shows a stronger rip move to clear his way to the ball carrier and gets a good piece of his lower half aiding the stop. He needs to show more consistency with these upper body power moves (as we will show later), particularly after active use of his hands.
Wynn displays good play speed, as well, which is a result of solid mental processing of the play in front of him. The few times when DE Pierre-Paul took a break, Wynn would take his spot on the strong side of the line. However, he can play on the weak side in space, as seen against the Seahawks on a first down run by Eddy Lacy. See below:
Here, Wynn shows good patience at first and then solid play speed, transitioning to pursuing the ball carrier and, like he showed on kickoffs, has good range and closing speed in space. As stated above, he is not getting a lot of time in the OLB position in Bettcher’s base defense. Many do not realize, however, that with many teams using 11 personnel over 50% of their snaps, most of Bettcher’s base defense is really a four-man nickel front. Wynn, like Vernon and other defensive ends “transitioning”, will not see much of a change outside of whether they are in a two- or three-point stance.
What Wynn Struggles With
Wynn’s struggles center around a few areas, including get off, recognition of certain plays, agility in tight quarters, and certain pass rushing scenarios. At the snap, Wynn certainly struggles with is his get off; he just does not have good sudden burst. In the first film example above, you can see him way behind edge rusher Kareem Martin. In the screen game, he often is slow in recognition or “feel” of the offensive linemen letting him come downhill too easily and is slow to react. Momentum downhill is important to him, and his speed-to-power rushes, particularly from the left side, often fail to materialize against larger tackles. See below from the Detroit game in 2017, on 2nd-and-long:
Wynn’s transition to the bull rush failed here, and he is not a player who will win the fight in a phone booth against a tackle. He does not yet possess the ability to bend and either go lower around the blocker or use his rip move to swim over the upper half of a tackle. He actually recorded a sack on this play by his sheer determination and will, chasing down the QB to the sideline. His motor is a great part of his game, but he needs to add more rushing moves to his quiver of tools.
Wynn can also struggle in the running game against some backs with side-to-side agility. In smaller spaces, his body seems to require optimal settings for his lateral movement to kick into gear. Optimal settings rarely exist in the trenches in the NFL. See the below play against Denver in 2017, where a TE gets a piece of Wynn and derails his efforts vs. a RB:
I may sound like a broken record, but what I love is even when Wynn whiffs like this, its almost as if it did not happen, as he forces himself back into the play quickly. In scouting, you are taught to not put complimentary points like this in in the negative section of reports to cloud the impact of the analysis. I am making an exception here because the tape deems that I do so.
Kerry Wynn is a role player in a flexible 3-4 base defense scheme such as James Bettcher’s, and who can be featured often in 3rd down sub-packages from the 3-technique all the way out to a 7-technique, where he will find the most success in 1-on-1 matchups vs. interior linemen, either straight on or as a stunting edge rusher. With the exotic fronts that are often played in today’s NFL, he is a flexible tool that can easily swap positions in 3rd-and-medium downs with edge rushers whose speed may be better utilized inside and his run contain skills used on the outside. He can win with this motor, use of hands, and proper downhill momentum. His career trajectory could possibly be most influenced by recent veteran signings like Connor Barwin, who could aid in his expansion and refinement of pass rushing moves.